MIDDLETON — The new slogan for one of the state's oldest craft breweries is exciting for Brian Destree.
The Green Bay native — who went to high school with the State Journal's Beer Baron, Chris Drosner — was hired in September as brewery production manager at Capital Brewery to help streamline the systems and oversee the day-to-day operations. A week after his arrival, however, Destree learned that Kirby Nelson, the brewery's longtime brewmaster, was leaving to join former Capital president Carl Nolen at the new Wisconsin Brewing Co. in Verona.
That's why the "Beer is good, so is change" motto appeared to be a perfect fit.
The company has a new logo and packaging, and a redesigned website. A larger facility could be in the company's future.
There are also new beers. Pumpkinataur Wrex, a pumpkin beer, was released earlier this fall, and IPAs (India Pale Ale) will soon be part of the beer roster in an effort to draw a younger audience to Capital beers.
In March, an imperial IPA will be released in 22-ounce bomber bottles and on draft, followed by a toned-down IPA in April available in bottles, cans and on tap. The company's Eternal Flame beer will soon be out in bombers and three other bomber releases are also scheduled for next year.
Q: Does the addition of IPAs change the profile of the brewery?
A: We hope so. We're looking to expand the demographic of people that will drink Capital beer. You know, 26, years ago, those Germanic-style lagers were kind of new and different, but as the craft brewing industry grew and all this crazy stuff came to market, it's now kind of mainstream. We kind of lost that edge, I think, and we're trying to get back to the younger demographic and give them something that's hot right now. IPAs are just flying off the shelf right now.
Q: What does this opportunity present?
A: The No. 1 thing you hear when you're out in the market is, what's new? There's going to be tons of opportunities to consistently push the envelope in whatever direction you want.
Q: What attracted you to Capital Brewery?
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A: The higher I moved up the food chain at Miller, the farther and farther I got away from doing what I love doing best, and that's being a hands-on brewer. My last position was a lot of sitting in meetings and strategizing and talking about making beer as opposed to going out there and being close (to the beer) on the floor. I kind of missed that aspect of it.
Q: But you thought you would be working side by side with Nelson?
A: At the end of my first week is when Kirby kind of announced he would be moving on. From when he announced to when he left, we had about four or five weeks where we worked together and I really enjoyed it. It was fun. He's an interesting guy. There's never a dull moment.
Q: What does a brewer learn from working alongside another brewer?
A: Understanding brewing and knowing how to operate a brewery are two separate things. (Nelson) knows this place inside and out, so what I tried focusing on was learning as much as I could about the inner workings of Capital Brewery, just for product consistency sake, so we don't make drastic changes and our core products stay the same. It's learning the quirks of the brewery.
Q: Describe your brewing style.
A: I'm kind of old school. I appreciate a good, old-school American lager because I think the skill that it takes to brew those kind of beers is under-appreciated. I enjoy the big, bold beers, but they're not especially difficult to brew because they get so much flavor from the malt or from the hops. I like lagers because it takes a little more skill to brew those beers successfully.
Q: You are also looking to hire a brewmaster. Will both of you be the face of the brewery?
A: It's going to be a partnership. It's lightening the load because you can only be in one place at a time. We'll collaborate. What's important to me is being here at the brewery as much as possible. We want the product to become the face of Capital Brewery.
Q: Are you excited about the potential?
A: My goal is to make this my last job and for this company to be extremely successful and much bigger than it is right now. That's my No. 1 priority, to help drive the growth of this company. That's why we're expanding our portfolio. We've been comfortable, but now it's time to knock down some walls and expand our portfolio. We have the foundation in place to grow exponentially starting this year and we expect that to skyrocket in the coming years.